Promotion Play-off Preview

Hornchurch host Lowestoft in Ryman Premier showdown

Monday (3pm)

Hornchurch v Lowestoft Town

Urchins are 90 minutes away from promotion to Conference South.

And if today’s play-off final at Bridge Avenue it anything like the semi-final meeting with Bury last midweek, we could be in for a cracker.

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Manager Jimmy McFarlane fielded three strikers in Lewis Smith, Martin Tuohy and Carl Rook and all of them netted in a superb second half as Urchins ran out 3-1 winners.

Lowestoft, meanwhile, left it late to book their place in the final.

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Chris Henderson put them ahead in the first half, but Scott Fitzgerald levelled for Stones, who were then reduced to nine men after Chris O’Leary and Sean Cronin were dismissed in quick succession.

The hosts were awarded a penalty in injury time, when Lubo Guentchev was brought down and Dean Sinclair kept his cool to convert from the spot and settle a controversial clash on the Suffolk coast.

Hornchurch will know exactly how Wealdstone felt, having lost to a last-gasp goal when they visited Lowestoft in the league back in August.

The match remained goalless until past the hour when Matt Nolan put the Trawlerboys ahead.

Aaron Gayle got Urchins back on terms on 74 minutes and they looked set to return home with a hard-earned point, when Lubo Guentchev pounced in the sixth minute of stoppage time to earn the hosts victory.

Urchins gained revenge in the return fixture on January 2, as Tuohy, Smith and Joe Anderson sealed a 3-0 victory on home turf.

And they will go into today’s winner-takes-all clash with confidence, despite being without suspended captain Elliot Styles.

McFarlane will hope Reiss Noel has recovered from a slight knock to take his place in the centre of defence, but will have decisions to make about his starting line-up.

Only goal difference separated these two clubs at the end of the 42-game regular season, with Urchins finishing as runners-up to champions Billericay.

And with promotion on the line today, it is sure to be just as close again.

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